September 13, 2004

Fisking Fisk

Robert Fisk continues to live up to his name.

His new piece is titled We should not have allowed 19 murderers to change our world.

He doesn’t say we should have acted as though nothing had happened, but he practically implies as much at the end.

[W]e should not allow 19 murderers to change our world. George Bush and Tony Blair are doing their best to make sure the murderers DO change our world.
I’d like to know how it could be otherwise. Seriously. The attack on September 11, 2001, was the worst terrorist act ever. It was also the most devastating attack of any kind inside America ever. Does Robert Fisk really think we should have treated such an atrocity the way we would a pipsqueak of a bomb in a trashcan at the mall by the IRA?

No one should doubt Al Qaeda would have used a nuclear weapon had they possessed one. Clearly they sought to maximize, not minimize, the death count. Even without a nuclear weapon the casualties could have been as high as if we’d been nuked. If the Twin Towers fell over sideways on impact the number of civilians murdered could have exceeded the death toll at Hiroshima. As Paul Berman put it in Terror and Liberalism, “It is worth asking if there is anything genocidal in this kind of terrorist impulse.”

Old school terrorists like the IRA and the Basque ETA don’t behave this way, nor will they ever.

History is what it is. It swung on its hinges on September 11. It would have done so if even if Dennis Kucinich sat in the White House and George Galloway ran Britain.

Allow me to back up a bit in Fisk’s piece and address him personally. (Hi, Robert. I hope you track the referral logs in your Web site’s stat meter and read what people have to say about your work.) The ending, obtuse as it is, is a lot less asinine than what led to it.

Merely to ask why the murderers of 11 September had done their bloody deeds was to befriend "terrorism". Merely to ask what had been in the minds of the killers was to give them support.
Says who, Robert? It's not the question that leads to this accusation. It's the answer to the question that does it.

You have been accused of "befriending" terrorists. I agree that putting it that way is over-the-top. The reason this happens, though, isn't because you ask why terrorists kill people. It's because you blame the victims.

Hell, you made excuses for people who assaulted you personally. Must I remind?

On December 10, 2001, you wrote the following:

They started by shaking hands. We said "Salaam aleikum" – peace be upon you – then the first pebbles flew past my face. A small boy tried to grab my bag. Then another. Then someone punched me in the back. Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn't see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn't blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find. [Emphasis added.]
Really? Would you really have done just the same?

I may be arguing with you here, but I’m honestly sorry you were beat up for being a white guy. It was wrong. You hadn’t done anything to those people. They are precisely the moral equivalents of the criminals who assaulted random Arabs (and even, pathetically, Sikhs) on the streets of America after September 11. It is not okay to lash out at people who share the same ethnicity with those you are pissed at.

One article I wrote for The Independent in 1998 asked why Iraqis do not tear us limb from limb, which is what some Iraqis did to the American mercenaries they killed in Fallujah last April.
There you go again. Or, there you nearly go again.

If someone else had written that sentence, I might give them a pass. But you already said you would assault any random Westerner if you were a refugee in Afghanistan. It’s not a huge leap to think you might want to tear a Westerner limb from limb if you were Iraqi.

Jesus, Robert. Did it not occur to you that most Iraqis have more decency than to tear innocent people limb from limb? Don’t you see how insulting to Iraqis your question is? Let me help you out. I altered your sentence a bit.

One article I wrote asked why Englishmen do not tear French people limb from limb…
Or how about this alteration?
One article I wrote asked why Israelis do not tear Palestinians limb from limb…
How do those read to you? Did the first insult England? Did the second excuse and even suggest hypothetical vicious Israeli behavior?

Later in the same piece you argued with your own title:

America’s relations with the Middle East, especially the nature of its relationship with Israel, was to remain an unspoken and unquestioned subject.

We did change our relations with the Middle East. One of the biggest examples is the one you hate most. We were no longer willing to keep troops on Saudi Arabian “holy ground” to protect a corrupt and reactionary crime family from the fascist next door.

You may also recall that we adjusted our relationship with Israelis and Palestinians. For the first time ever an American president explicitly backed Palestinian statehood and Palestinian democracy. Previously both Israel and the United States relied on the autocratic psuedo-proxy Yasser Arafat to fight a dirty anti-terror war for them. Those days are over.

Meanwhile, most Americans would like to see even more changes in our relationship to the Middle East. We aren’t finished with Saudi Arabia yet. The House of Saud needs to be hanged up and dried. Any time you feel like joining us in questioning our relations in the Middle East, instead of complaining that Bush and Blair changed the world, let us know.

Hat tip: Harry’s Place

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2004 5:23 PM
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Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

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Jihad Versus McWorld
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Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

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England Your England
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